The London Review of Books has a lengthy article by Professors John Mearsheimer of University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard, arguing that given that Israel is such a malevolent country that acts in so many ways contrary to U.S. interets, support for Israel in the U.S. must be primarily, perhaps solely, a result of the power of the pro-Israel political lobby.
The article is so full of misrepresentations and distortions that it would take me an entire day to properly Fisk it. Fortunately, the authors discredit themselves in the very first paragraph.
For the past several decades, and especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the centrepiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel. The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread ‘democracy’ throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardised not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world.
This is sheer nonsense [clarification: the nonsense is the purported relationship between U.S. support for Israel and U.S. support for democratization of the Middle East. As I explain below, given that Israel is opposed to the latter policy, it's hard to see how it's a "related" effort]. The Israeli government has never supported an agenda of democratizing the Middle East. Jimmy Carter wanted to democratize Iran, and his administration encouraged the Shah to abdicate. Israel had a fine relationship with the Shah, would have been happy to see him retain power, and was very unhappy with how the U.S. undermined him, leading to the rise of Khomeinism is Iran. Today, Israel wanted to postpone or cancel the Palestinian elections, but relented under pressure from the U.S. Israel has, perhaps foolishly, put its faith in dictators willing to sign peace treaties or otherwise cooperate with Israel, including Egypt's Mubarak, and the monarchies in Morocco and Jordan. The last thing Israel wants right now is for any of these countries to become democracies, as public opinion is extremely hostile to Israel in each country. Israel previously put its faith in Yasser Arafat post-Oslo, precisely because it thought he could impose calm on his subjects. The only major public figure in Israel who has been a proponent of spreading democracy in the Middle East is Natan Sharansky, and he is considered a crank by most Israelis, and even he has been skeptical of U.S. democraticization policy with regard to the Palestinians.
I can't really make out what the authors' argument is in attributing either the invasion of Iraq (even though they acknowledge that top Israeli officials thought Iran was more of a threat to Israel) or the policy of spreading democracy to the Middle East to the pro-Israel lobby, but it seems to be something along the lines of the following: Neoconservatives wanted to invade Iraq and spread democracy to the Middle East; Israel thought it would benefit from the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein (no mention of the fact that Israel does not think it would benefit from democratization); and neoconservatives tend to be strong supporters of Israel.
As I've noted before, neoconservatives were also strong supporters of U.S. military involvement in the Balkans. Does that mean that pro-Israel lobby was behind Clinton's actions in Bosnia?
One expects a lot better from Harvard and Chicago professors than this.
UPDATE: Rosner's blog asks, regarding the study in question:
Do you ignore it - having concluded it is biased, one-sided, foolish, repetitive, and most of all, has nothing new to offer - or do you write about it, knowing that the "Harvard," "Chicago," "professors," "Kennedy school" labels will make it acceptable anyway, even news-worthy, in the eyes of many. In short: Does one need cooperate with the advancement of the cause of academic garbage?
And Rosner, like me, doesn't have the time and energy for a full-scale Fisking: "But let us not start arguing about every little detail in this paper. It will take a long time, and it will be a waste of time, as it is clear that the writers are not here to be convinced that they're wrong."
And from Martin Kramer: "This newest article, obviously the work of Walt more than Mearsheimer, cobbles together a lot of half-truths and untruths that have been out there on the far fringe, and gives them 'academic respectability.'"
Drezner has a reasonably thorough critique, including,"Shot through these papers are an awful lot of casual assertions that don't hold up to close scrutiny."
And here's a New York Sun editorial criticizing the study.